Couple of movies this weekend:

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

The 70's were over, Reagan was restoring hope, and AIDS hadn't broken on the American consciousness. Ahhh...1982, the year Cameron Crowe's masterpiece, Fast Times at Ridgemont High premiered. Up-and-coming cast members included Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates (before 'Gremlins'), Forest Whitaker, Anthony Edwards as a Stoner (!), and a cameo by Nic Cage.

A highly watchable, if inconsequential, piece of fluff, I LOVE THIS MOVIE, if only for the reminder of 1980's style.

Garden State

It's hard to see Zach Braff as anyone but J.D. from television's "Scrubs", but he plays against type here as the numb Andrew Largemen in this late-twentysomething lament, which he also wrote and directed.

In its 102 minutes, the movie follows bit-part actor Andrew Largemen, an lapsed Jew from New Jersey as he returns home for the first time in 9 years to bury his mother, a depressed parapalegic. During this interruption to his meaningless, La-La Land existence, he finds himself reconnecting with family, old (loser) friends, and himself.

The crux of this movie is a giant, two-word question: "So what?" At each point in the film, the plot moves forward, but upon reflection, the audience is left saying "So what?". Largeman's mother dies. He hates his overmedicated, numb existence. He has loser friends. He falls in love for a compulsive liar (Natalie Portman, an annoying delight). The surrounding cast play stark, undeveloped antagonists, befitting an indie film. People swear inappropriately, again befitting Indie status.

Desite its hollowness, I found the film worthy because of its nuances. As the story arcs from L.A. to Jersey, we not only understand Largeman's numbness, we experience it--It seems the first 15 minutes of the film are deliberately unengaging and distant. We don't care about this man; neither does he care about himself or others. Later, that changes--he comes to understand his father and love (or pity) others. He becomes a participant.

In the end, the movie encourages introspection: How numb am I to life? Does life have a point, and is it okay if it doesn't?

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